Ah, America. The place where everything’s bigger – especially the food. As a vegetarian, I wasn’t quite sure how much of the food there would be for me, but it turns out Austin is a great town if you’re veggie, despite the fact that Texans eats a LOT of meat.
The must-eat in Austin is Tacos. You can have Tacos (which are corn or wheat tortillas wrapped around some kind of filling) for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you so fancy, and if you get them from the right place, they’re delicious.
Here’s my run down of the places I ate, and what I ate there, with my thoughts on how good the places are, so if you visit Austin you have a place to start. When I ate with friends, I’ve also asked them for some thoughts.
Let me know if you have further recommendations for places to eat in Austin in the comments (I know there are a ton!) – I’m going back!
Breakfast / Brunch
Yum, American breakfasts. So, so good if you go to the right place. A greasy, soggy disappointment if you don’t.
1. Jo’s Coffee
Jo’s coffee is a very reasonably priced diner-style restaurant (I went to the downtown location), open for pretty much the whole day. They have two locations, and I went to the one downtown and sat at the counter, and felt very pleased with myself as I felt like a local. I had an egg and cheese breakfast taco one day, and ‘The Leslie’ another day (tempeh “bacon”, refried black beans, avocado, cotija and spicy mayo), and breakfast potatoes both days (fried cubed potatoes). It was all pretty yum. I can also recommend the Iced Turbo, if you like sweet coffee, a sugary, caffeinated drink which will keep you going all day.
My Rating: 5/5 (TLDR: Good value for money, great atmosphere, and really fab food)
Friends’ Rating: 4/5 – “Great breakfast tacos”
This is a more swanky place where we had brunch on Easter Saturday. It’s a seafood restaurant, so not that great for vegetarians, but fine for me for brunch as I had the most delicious, fluffy, banana and blueberry pancake (see main picture above), which was one of the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten. Oh yeah, and a pretty nice cocktail whose name I have forgotten. I think it had elderflower in. And gin. And strawberries.
My Rating: 4/5 (TLDR: excellent food, mostly great atmosphere, lovely outside area to dine in, limited veggie options, and Justin’s crab cakes were a little seldom portion-wise for the money).
Friends’ Rating: 4/5 “Who knew that bouillabaisse could be breakfast, with the addition of an egg it was a sublime brunch triumph.”
3. MagnoliaA well-known diner staple on South Congress, and demonstrated that by having a 15 minute wait even in the middle of a Friday morning. We sat in the conservatory section, which lacked the atmosphere of the main diner, but was heated (it was a damp day).
The menu is large, as are the portions, and the food was well done. I can especially recommend the pancakes – I had a buttermilk pancake (there are four kinds of pancake) with pecans, which were liberally added. There’s a choice of ‘real’ maple syrup or regular. I had the real, but the maple syrup expert I happened to be dining with (she’s from New Hampshire) said it wasn’t worth it on this occasion.
My Rating: 4/5 (TLDR: Tasty food, huge portions, but a bit hectic and not as much atmosphere if you’re in the outer part)
4. Wanderlust Yoga cafe: Bowls and Blenders
This is a cafe attached to a funky yoga studio and shop. The cafe bills itself as the only ‘acai’ cafe in Austin (an acai is a health-filled berry if you’re not familiar with them). It only has a handful of tables, so is mainly a take-away (every time I went there most of the tables were busy), and sells smoothies and ‘bowls’ which have a smoothie base and then various healthy additions. I had ‘The Sesher,’ which contains in the bend in the bowl: acai, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, chocolate hemp milk, and is topped with hemp granola, bananas, crushed cashews, raisins, cacao nibs and local honey.
I loved this place, and had breakfast there maybe three times (it was on the same block as my accommodation). It’s quite hip, and very healthy – at one point the girl in front of me was wearing a cross-fit t-shirt, while another very slender, very tanned woman was practicing handstands in the clothing shop part of the store.
My Rating: 5/5 (TLDR: Assuming you want to eat smoothie-based food, this is delicious)
5. Café Crème
I went here for a meet-up with some people, so it was chosen by a local, and was a great pick. I had an iced Vietnamese coffee which was delicious, an ok Mexican hot chocolate, and an egg, potato and cheese taco which was fine (though it was a bit small so I actually had two). This would have been a good place to hang out and work for the day, and also had plenty of space for nine of us to meet and chat.
My Rating: 3/5 (TLDR: Thought the staff were really engaging, and the food was fine with a good number of veggie options – some interesting menu items that I didn’t actually eat too)
I was told by a local that there are really only two places to get tacos in Austin. One is Tacodeli, and the other is Torchy’s. I managed to go to two of the Torchy’s locations, the newer one on South Congress and the trailer park food truck area. On different occasions (lest you realise what a piggy I actually am), I had: tortilla chips and guacamole (these were really excellent, probably the best I had), and a couple of different types of tacos, all of which were yum.
My Rating: 4/5 (TLDR: Great value, portion size and tastiness. And because the guacamole is awesome)
A vegan food truck next to Torchy’s Tacos in the Trailer Park food area. I thought my BBQ-Setein wrap was ok, I also had rosemary fries which were a bit of a disappointment. Good for a quackish lunch, great if you’re vegan.
My Rating: 3/5 (TLDR: tasty and unusual vegetarian food, with a challenge as it’s next to Torchy’s.)
This was a very funky hipster diner, where my friends had cocktails one night, and they brought me back when I was craving a milkshake. The peanut butter and chocolate shake I had was delicious, really good – and they were able to do a soy one for my dairy-intolerant friend. They said the cocktails were good too.
There’s some really fun artwork on the walls and they have the most amazing bar set up which provides practically any alcohol you could dream of.
My rating: 4/5 (TLDR: very cool, plenty of mac books and coffee, great atmosphere and surroundings, and the drink I had was great. My friends loved the bar too – but remember kids, it’s free pour in the states, so you may end up weaving down the street afterwards!)
Friends’ Rating: 4/5 – “Cocktails are delicious but lethal!”
At the bottom of the owl-like Frost Financial Building (although there are more branches), I loved the atmosphere of this funky coffee shop, which serves great coffee and some pastries. It was usually buzzing with casually dressed but focused people, who were either having meetings or on their macs. It was just like being in Chiang Mai.
My rating: 4/5 (TLDR: Great coffee, reasonable tables with some power sockets, shame they didn’t have a few more food options as I could have stayed all day!)
10. SoCo Cafe
This is really a food place and a bar, and I’m told that vegetarians in particular go mad for the brunch, but we just went for coffee, and were probably unlucky in our experience. We sat out on the patio, which was nice enough, but it was busy and took ages for our order to come, and even longer to get the bill. The coffee was fine.
My Rating: 3/5 (TLDR: I’ve heard it’s great for food, but we didn’t have any so can only rate it for coffee, which was fine, and service, which wasn’t amazing)
11. La Contesa
A funky Mexican, this was one of my friends’, Ed and Justin’s picks, and something I probably wouldn’t have tried on my own, but proved to be delicious. Bit of a strange location in that it’s on the cross roads of a reasonably busy junction, but despite that, we sat outside and it was very enjoyable. We had the chips and mixed dips to share to start, and that was fab – different types of guacamole and salsa, all very tasty. I really love tortilla chips (I ate a lot of them in Austin. They could be my kryptonite. Lucky they’re not that common in the UK and Thailand).
I had an ‘Aguacate Torta’ which is a delicious type of hot sandwich, with sliced avocado, black bean purée, poblano rajas, chipotle mayo, baby arugula, tomatoes in it, which was huge and I had to take half of it home.
My Rating: 4/5 (TLDR: Loved what I ate, could have had more veggie choices, service was again a bit intimidating (possibly this is more about me than the service!))
Friends’ Rating: 4/5 – “Fabulous ceviche and very beautiful restaurant.”
This was another recommendation by a local that I might not have found on my own. It’s a vegan food truck that has a permanent location at Cheer Up Charlie’s Bar. You have to go through the bar to get to the food truck, but can then eat at some of the tables there, or take it home with you. This was were I got to taste veggie Texas BBQ and a Bac’n Cheese Burger (they do delightful things with soy!). I enjoyed the sweet potato fries, but I had the mac and cheese as a side and it didn’t do much for me (well, vegan cheese…).
My Rating: 4/5 (mostly delicious, awesomely vegan. A couple of hit and miss dishes, and sometimes there was a huge queue and only one person serving, so time to get your food could vary greatly)
13. Wyndham Hotel
I include this only because it was where I was staying, and I ate breakfast there one day, and dinner there another. Breakfast was another pancake (ok, even I am starting to see a pattern here), which was fine though I decided not to eat there for breakfast again after the first day. For dinner I had a veggie burger and fries. The fries were those odd double fried ones, where they look like they’ve been battered, and it was just much too greasy and heavy for me. It was convenient, not much more.
My Rating: 2/5 (TLDR: Heavy hotel food, mildly overpriced and not that great)
Our guide on the Austin Bike Tour showed up Rainey street, which has lots of interesting bars, including the Craft Pride. We went for a pint after our bike tour, on a lovely sunny afternoon, and had a 5 beer sampler which was great fun. We also realised there was a Chicago style (which apparently means deep-dish and square) pizza, so I had that for supper, and it was delicious. There was even some live folk music which was…ok.
My Rating: 5/5 (TLDR: A really fun place to sit on a sunny afternoon and drink unusual beers.)
Friends’ Rating: 4/5 – “Beer samplers served in a trunk are great.”
This was the first Mexican we tried when the boys arrived, and it was a bit of a disappointment. Although that was partly in retrospect – when I had Tacos (my first in Texas) at this restaurant, I wondered what all the fuss was about. But the next morning I went to Jo’s Coffee, and realised how delicious they could be.
Friends’ Rating: 2/5 – “there are way better places, like the one across the street.”
My Rating: 2/5 (TLDR: good location on 6th street, but the food wasn’t that great)
Other Recommendations that Locals Gave Me That I didn’t Have Time To Go To
- Breakfast at The Steeping Room
- Biscuits & Groovy, breakfast for those who prefer foodtruck to restaurant.
- For Pizza: House Pizza (“takes forever and is expensive but has a nice atmosphere with a good juke box”) or East Side Pies (for NY style).
- Titaya’s for Thai food
- Ramen Tatsu Ya – Ramen
- Coffee shops: Medici; Epoch; Genuine Joe.